Eurojust handled 8,800 crime and terrorism cases in 2020 – up 13 per cent despite the pandemic

EU’s crime agency froze €1.9bn in criminal assets and seized drugs worth €3bn

The EU's crime agency Eurojust recorded a 13 per cent increase in the number of crime and terrorism cases it dealt with last year, despite difficult working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic.

It handled more than 8,800 cases, froze criminal assets worth €1.9 billion ($2.25bn) and seized drugs worth €3bn.

The European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Co-operation assists nations with serious cross-border crimes and terrorism.

More than 2,200 people were arrested last year as the agency worked on 737 cases in France, 413 in the UK, 841 in Italy, 413 in Sweden and 119 in Ireland, among many others.

The President of the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, Ladislav Hamran, said the agency faced difficult working conditions because of the pandemic.

“In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic had us face the most significant and unpredictable challenges in decades,” he said.

“I am incredibly proud of the flexibility, resilience and determination that Eurojust has shown in the face of this crisis.

“Our operational support was never interrupted and our impressive results confirm that even under the most difficult circumstances, we are still able to make a real, tangible contribution towards a safer Europe.”

The agency reported a 16 per cent increase in terrorism cases last year and dealt with more than 90 requests for help in terrorism-related cases from EU member states.

Some of those involved the targeting of foreign terrorist fighters travelling to a conflict zone to join the ranks of a group or to undergo training.

Others focused on terrorist networks and cells involved in the recruitment, financing and facilitation of the travel or return of fighters.

In total, 164 cases were directly related to the pandemic, either regarding difficulties with the execution of European arrest warrants and European investigation orders because of border closures, or fraud related to coronavirus medical products, from the sale of masks to protective gels.

In one case, Eurojust froze the bank accounts of a criminal gang operating in France and Switzerland that had hacked the computer system of a hospital in the Czech Republic at the height of the pandemic.

It dealt with a number of major cases, from supporting the large-scale unravelling of EncroChat, a secret communications network used by criminals, to tackling human trafficking and drugs trade.

"I congratulate Eurojust for the determination it has shown in its mission and for stepping up its action in the midst of an unprecedented crisis," said European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders.

“I am aware that the latest months have put a strain on the functioning of the justice systems in the European Union. Justice will grow stronger after this crisis.

“Member states are increasing spending in the digitalisation of the justice systems and are joining forces to prevent cross-border crimes. Eurojust also plays a key role in this transition.”

EDITOR'S PICKS
NEWSLETTERS